And The DNA Tests Revealed… Genetics, DNA Testing & Legacy

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Caption: Me sitting on the steps of a Slave Cabin in New Orleans, LA

I am so grateful for the people in my family – like my Aunt Gert, who keep track of our genealogy. In that sense, I have been more fortunate than most African Americans, because we have been able to trace my lineage to my great great great granfather, Syrus Williams, who was born a slave in South Carolina but died a free man in Atkins, Arkansas with 128 acres of land. I wrote briefly about him here.

About a month ago, my husband and I decided that we wanted to do the DNA testing to determine our ethnic makeup. My husband recently reunited with my father-in-law Brian Tillman who he found homeless. That story is documented in a film that will be in AMC theaters October 9th. Click here to watch the trailer.

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The older I get, the more curious I get about the people who came before me. I want to know as much as I can about those individuals. What motivated them? How did they survive such difficult life circumstances? What parts of them are not a part of me?

So we received our Ancestry.com DNA kit, provided a saliva sample (no blood, pricking or anything too intrusive) and sent it via mail to be tested. After 6 weeks, an e-mail popped up in my box “Your DNA results are ready.”

Thankfully we were both home, and we were able to read our results together. We decided to read his genetic makeup first. As we’d guessed, a large part of both of genetic makeup was African.

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The Results: 

Africa 94:

Cameroon/Congo – 34% (This represented 10% of my husband’s DNA)

Ivory Coast/Ghana – 34%

Benin/Togo – 18% (This represented 31% of my husband’s DNA) 

Senegal – 4%

Nigeria – 2% (This represented 21% of my husband’s DNA)

Mali – 1%

Africa South-Central Hunter – Gatherers – 1%

America – Less Than 1% (could include North & South America)

Asia – Less Than 1% (Asia East which includes (Russia, China, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, Myanmar (Burma), Japan, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore, Brunei, Palau)

Europe – 4%

Europe West – 1% (

Primarily located in: Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein

Also found in: England, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic)

Ireland – Less than 1%

Great Britain – Less than 1% (

Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales

Also found in: Ireland, France, Germany, Denmark, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, Italy)

Europe East – Less than 1% (Primarily located in: Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Russia, Hungary, Slovenia, Romania, Serbia, Ukraine, Belarus, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia

Also found in: Germany, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, Estonia, Bulgaria) 

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It feels empowering to know where I’m from. All those years of guessing from Liberia to Jamaica, are over. I can look at a map and know beyond America, where I’m from. 

It’s also a brutal reminder of the deep painful history of slavery, of which I am a part. So many people want to move past slavery, but the legacy of that peculiar institution is literally RUNNING through our veins, our hearts and our spirits. Knowing who you are is connected to your esteem. It gives you a context and a legacy to plug in to, and it is like a compass for where you should be going.

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Caption: Signage regarding “Women’s Work” at Oak Alley Plantation

I am a PROUD African (in America)! I was teased about my strong features (nose & lips) growing up, and it feels good to know that Africa engraved clear symbols on me that will likely continue for generations to come.

My goal now is to immerse myself in the cultures. I’d like to visit each of the countries that are a part of my genetic makeup, learn about the history and eventually pass it down to my children (and their children).

For me, this genetic test is only the beginning… My goal is to reclaim the dignity, power, influence and legacy that was robbed of my ancestors when they exited the door of no return on the Ivory Coast… I’m on a mission!

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What To Do When You’re Told “No”

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Caption: My beautiful soror & owner of Phatbulous Fashionista & I at our (PRO)ject US Nerd Prom Event (Donda’s House collaborative Fashion Program).

Last week I received two pieces of devastating news. In both cases, it was connected to Donda’s House. When you apply for a grant, it’s almost like applying for a job… you wouldn’t even apply if you didn’t think you were qualified. When you first hear about a grant, it’s so exciting! You imagine ALL of the possibilities of what you’re going to do with the funding, and after you click “submit,” you eagerly anticipate the news.

In this case the news came to my inbox. “We regret to inform you…” I exited out of the screen with a thud. This was the second piece of bad news I’d received that week. My first thought was “I just want this week to be over…” I crawled over to my hubby and laid on his chest and I started to cry. He was very encouraging and my level of “sulkdom” was not as bad as it could’ve been but for the rest of the day I operated like an inflated balloon. I didn’t want to take very many calls, wasn’t motivated to do any work. I was choosing to be sad.

The next day I woke up and figured that I had to work overtime for four “yes” (es) to replace those two “nos.” The first thing that I did was to consider what were similar opportunities that I could find? Which relationships do I have that could help me get to those similar opportunities? I went to work. I started e-mailing, proposal writing and texting my tribe. (NOTE: Your tribe is a group of people who share similar values that may do similar work, they are also the people who are super encouraging and that lift your spirits). On day two, I was down but not defeated.

The one thing I tell myself in those situations when I don’t get what I want is, “Everything happens for a reason.” It always makes me feel better. So I repeated those words to myself the entire day. The best cure for a “no” is overtime! After you’ve been told “no,” you have to do twice the amount of work to replace those “nos.”

The kingdom of “sulkdom” is always willing to embrace you, but you’ve got to be a temporary visitor and take that return flight back to reality and back to your dreams!

CLIQUE/CLICK: Quirky, Brown Love posted 200+ black bloggers divided by categories including Fashion, Lifestyle, Parenting, you name it! Be sure to bookmark and give them some “clique/click” love: http://www.quirkybrownlove.com/2015/08/200-amazing-black-bloggers-list.html

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Why We Have To Wait Sometimes…

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete,  not lacking anything.” – James 1:4

This is by far, the best verse I have ever read about the need for us to be patient. Of all of the virtues, patience seems to be the one that I struggle with the most.

My lack of patience, usually comes because I’m trying to be in control and for lack of a better term, we’re used to immediate gratification. Put your dollar in a vending machine – a snack comes out. Push the button on a remote – the television comes on. We are not used to asking, moving, or seeking – without anything happening in return.

The truth is, something IS happening in return and we just don’t see it. Our FAITH muscles are being strengthened. Things are happening that may need to happen, before we get what it is that we desire. Phone calls are being made. Interest is being compounded and if it is God’s will, one day that response that we so desperately seek will happen.

We have to wait, because God needs us to learn how to persevere, and PERSEVERANCE is faith personified. God needs to know that we won’t give up, give in or remain knocked down on the ground. He needs to know that WE know his word, and that we will be unrelenting in seeing his will fulfilled.

Thank God for sister Joyce Meyer’s devotionals, the free bible app and the spirit of the Lord putting James 1:4 in front of my eyes this morning… I hope that it blesses you, just like it did me!

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10 Pearls of Leadership

“10 Pearls of Leadership” Coming Soon!

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“I’m Going Over Time on the Overtime…”

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Caption: Me Speaking About Donda’s House at one of my Sorority’s Town Hall Meetings earlier this year… 

I work a lot… Almost twenty-four hours… and honestly I don’t mind it one bit.

I work so much, because I believe that I am sacrificing now on the front end to make things easier on the back end.

I am contributing to building an organization, Donda’s House Inc., that I want to live well beyond my lifetime.

I attended the gala last year of Lawrence Hall Youth Services, https://www.lawrencehall.org, and they celebrated 149 years of service!

I’ve never seen an organization up close and personal that has been in existence that long, and it inspired me.

It’s also probably why I’ve been itching to get to the pyramids, which are estimated to be around 4,600 years old.

I need to lay my eyes on one of the oldest structures ever built…

I am building something that I hope to last for at least 150 years so my perspective on how I spend my time has shifted drastically.

I know that life is short, and tomorrow is not promised… so I’m working very hard to get this institution that is Donda’s House where it should be.

I apologize in advance for the missed social gatherings, the “gaze” of reflection that I’m often found in, staring into space and the “ding” of my e-mail and text messages during conversations. Outside of family, my work is my #1 priority. I believe that this is what I was put here to do, so I’ve never been more intentional about how I spend my time because every single second, in the fragility of human life, and in consideration of the reach I hope we’ll have, is precious.

It is estimated that it took 20 years to build a pyramid, and my hope is that in 20 years, Donda’s House is as strong, breathtaking and sacred as those pyramids…

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Music Monday + Miguel’s New Album

Happy Monday!

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Caption: Artwork for Miguel’s New Album “Wildheart”

My life revolves around music and I have an eclectic taste in music. Every Monday, I will share 10 songs to add to your playlist.

10 Songs To Add To Your 90s Playlist:

(1) “Iesha” by Another Bad Creation

(2) “Poison” by Bell Biv DeVoe (BBD)

(3) “I Do Need You” by Bell Biv DeVoe (BBD)

(4) “Missing You” by Case

(5) Bring Back Your Love by Christion

(6) “I Want To Sex You Up” by Color Me Bad

(7) “Hay” by Crucial Conflict

(8) “No, No, No, Part 1” by Destiny’s Child

(9) “What They Want” featuring Sisqo by DMX

(10) “Who We Be” by DMX

Also, shout out to Miguel and NPR for making his new album “Wildheart” (released next Monday) available for streaming here: http://www.npr.org/2015/06/22/415459282/first-listen-miguel-wildheart. Both Miguel and The Weeknd give me that Prince vibe that I crave!

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9 Things We Can Do To Combat Racism…

Racism is alive and well in America and anyone who says otherwise is either crazy, delusional, or both.

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Caption: Sending prayers up for the family, friends and loved ones of the 9 victims murdered in Charleston last night.

I was born and raised in the church. A.M.E. Zion as a little girl, and A.M.E. in High School. Who knows how often I was at bible study, choir rehearsal and worship service over the years.

Church is supposed to be the place where you go to lay your burdens down. It’s supposed to be sacred and safe. My heart aches to think that these nine people, in the midst of doing their father’s business, were violently taken away. They welcomed an outsider, a stranger, with open arms and the TERRORIST used a gun, given to him as a gift by his parents, to execute his white supremacist mission of murdering people for no other reason than the color of their skin.

I’m asking God to help me with this one… Help me to not be bitter. Help me to not hate the individual who perpetrated the crime. Tell me what to do and how to do it, as it relates to combating racism…

In honor of the nine lives that were lost… here are ten ways that we (regardless of race) can combat racism:

(1) Share stories, media pieces and news that combats racists stereotypes.

Racism feeds off of racists stereotypes including black people as lazy, ignorant, violent and sub-human. If you come across a story about a black person that combats those stereotypes, SHARE it via social media, in conversations and in professional settings.

(2) Stop saying that racism no longer exists. 

It’s offensive, it’s not true and it perpetuates the problem. Our society is not colorblind and the presence of a Black President does not mean racism just vanished with his election.

(3) Note your own biases and prejudices and intentionally fight against them.

You see a black man walking down the street and you have a thought to grab your purse tighter or walk on the opposite side of the street. Try NOT to clutch your purse tighter, stay on the same side of the street, make eye contact and offer to speak.

(4) Expose yourself, your family and your friends to black history and culture… and not just during Black History Month.

Watch a documentary about Black History, read about an important figure in black history, subscribe to a black publication like Essence or Ebony. If you have children, purchase a book by a black author that features black children. As Black Americans, we don’t have the option to NOT learn about mainstream culture and history. “Opt in” to learn more about the black experience.

(5) Hear all of the facts, before making a decision on a racial event or situation.

Don’t be so quick to dismiss something as an “overreaction” or an “emotional” response before getting the facts. Listen to a variety of perspectives (even those you disagree with) before deciding whether or not something was racist or prejudiced.

(6) Challenge racism when you see it.

Don’t be afraid to speak up and speak out, when you notice a racist act occur. Whether it’s in business, in a professional setting or in your personal life, if it makes you feel uncomfortable, speak up about it. Ask questions to black people you know, who may be able to offer some perspective.

(7) Do something.

Dialogue is the first step. We have to examine the legislation. We have to boycott and call people, companies and media sources out when racism rears it’s hideous head. Not everyone is going to protest in the streets, but you can support the efforts of those who are working on the ground financially and via advocacy.

(8) Help the next generation. 

It doesn’t take anything but time to invest in a young person. Take someone who is younger than you under your wing and mentor them. Bonus points if you reach out to someone who is racially or ethnically or socio-economically different from you.

(9) Vote.

Voting and being civically engaged is one course of action to take. When people commit hate crimes, they have to sit in front of judge. That judge is often selected based on appointment (from someone who was elected) or based on votes. We have to stop allowing others to make decisions for us when it comes to the discrepancies in sentencing, and the manner in which we are arrested, confined and tried. Even if you don’t think it matters, does it hurt to cast a vote?

My list is in no way exhaustive, but it’s just a few ways that you can get engaged if you’re angry, frustrated and desiring of something to do.

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